The Afghanistan I saw

 

As the flight touched down in Kabul, my weary heart skipped a beat. There was a palpable thrill of exploring and experiencing life in this beleaguered country that has embraced change after years of groping in the dark. At the same time, the nagging concerns about security and safety hung like the sword of Damocles over me. Before leaving for Kabul, the cynics and party poopers in New Delhi warned me of dire consequences. The battle-hardened Taliban guerillas, they said, will make mincemeat of you. I did not fret or fume, but the creepy thoughts in my mind fueled anxiety.

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In India, for some bizarre reason, mere mention of Afghanistan sends shudders down the spine. People think of it as some beleaguered, desolate, forsaken country where humans live in mountains and caves and where life is all about the struggle for survival. Afghanistan brings to mind the macabre images of Taliban kidnapping the condemned ‘khwarijees’ (foreigners) and making their life extinct. It brings to mind the images of bomb blasts and the lifeless bodies lying in pools of blood on the streets. It brings to mind the images of unmanned drones striking whatever comes their way.

Before coming here, I had similarly corrosive perception about Afghanistan. I thought it is the living hell on earth; worse than Iraq, Bahrain, Syria or Kashmir. I imagined myself walking the deserted road in Kabul and being kidnapped by some unidentified assailants and taken to some undisclosed location. But, being an eccentric and maverick person, I took it as a challenge. Ignoring all the unsolicited advices and instructions, I packed my bags and left.

As flight slowly hovered over the rocky mountains, I wondered if Taliban had hijacked it. A typical brawny Pashtoon man was sitting next to me, chewing tobacco. I tried to pick conversation with him, but his heavily loaded Pashtoo hit me like a drone. I turned my gaze away and looked at the mountains.

At the Kabul International Airport, a fleet of ugly-looking U.S. helicopters menacingly stared at you. It was far more unnerving and nauseating than the harsh weather. The police sleuths were polite enough to escort me out. On my way, I was pleasantly amazed to hear no gunshots, no bomb blasts, no landmines, and no drone strikes. I thought I boarded the wrong flight and came to the wrong place. My driver perhaps noticed the unease and said “welcome to Kabul”. “Why is it so calm today,” I asked. He said Afghanistan is dangerous place only in newspaper columns and prime time television shows.

His words echoed in my mind. In the days that followed, the Afghanistan I saw was different from the Afghanistan my friends had warned me about. I could freely roam around the town, go to malls and supermarkets, enjoy sumptuous dinner at a high-end eatery in Shehr e Naw, drive to Bibi Mehru hill, or simply go out for a walk. I saw no gun-toting Taliban wreaking havoc in Kabul. I saw no U.S drone flying overhead. I saw no Pashtoo speaking ill of Hazara. I saw a beautiful city with hustle and bustle. I saw glitzy malls and big supermarkets. I saw tremendous rush in restaurants and fast-food outlets. I saw luxury cars moving on the roads. I was plush residential houses. I saw quality of life. I saw people mocking Taliban and U.S. in same breath. I saw Afghanistan that has bounced back strongly and embraced change.

Yes, there was a blast in Kabul days before the high-profile meeting of Loya Jirga, but those are sporadic incidents that happen everywhere in the world. My perception about Afghanistan has dramatically changed after coming here. I think it is time the world also understands and acknowledges the reality of new, progressive and stable Afghanistan. –

Source: Afghan Zariza (http://afghanzariza.com/2013/12/06/the-afghanistan-i-saw./blog

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